Scott Raneri Trips Down A Genetic Rabbit Hole Of Family Secrets In THE MARVELOUS MR. MARZO at Don't Tell Mama.
Heigh-Ho Friends & "Family"! Bobby Patrick your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Putting the silent T in CABARET to bring you all the T.
What do you do my angels, when your 23 & Me comes back telling you that your family tree has a few branches you did not expect? You write a show about it, take it to the incomparable Sidney Myer, and book it into Don't Tell Mama; an aptly named club for this particular cabaret. In THE MARVELOUS MR. MARZO Raneri tells of his discovery that his paternal grandfather, his dad's dad, was NOT the biological father for 3 out of the 5 children in his household - something no one knew (perhaps) except Grandma Raneri for a very long time. You see Raneri's dad was, in fact, the love child of Grandpa Raneri's best friend Butch Marzo. OOOPS! But at least Scott got a great title for his show out of it, huh?
With a program that spanned the musical possibilities from Broadway to pop, from jazz to even Gilbert & Sullivan, the handsome Reneri and his mostly pleasing baritone spun the tale of grandma's libido, and the outside influences that brought forth his father and 2 of his aunts, or was it 3 of his aunts? To be honest, it was a little hard to keep up at times with the who's who of the Raneri homestead as Raneri's script, to which he stuck almost slavishly, would drop interesting tidbits but then leave them behind with little to no expounding. On more than one occasion Raneri would actually say something to the effect of "But we'll just leave that there" and move on. Sadly, nothing seemed to penetrate Raneri himself behind the armor of the script that he was, mostly, stridently reciting. There was a sentence or two here and there where the charm of the man came through because he went off-book or stumbled over his lines and let us see him for a moment. But, and this could be because this is his first cabaret rodeo, by and large, this singing actor was giving us lines he'd memorized.
Throughout the show, there were photo projections showing quaint people in 40's and 50's garb with some scripted explanation of who they were, and their relationships to Raneri, and there were lines meant to make us laugh, and moments meant to be poignant that just seemed to fall short because there was no telling what it all meant to Raneri personally. Did he find it funny? Was this a sad story? Raneri is a professional actor by trade, having returned to the profession after a few false starts and life sidetracks to the "real world," so one expects a bit of real theatre in his cabaret, but his script, by Joey Virgo, does not seem to inspire his connection to the material or the audience, even though Scott sincerely seeks the humans in the house with his gaze. At times he seems to be pushing a punch line that then falls flat, NOT because he didn't "land it" but because it wasn't funny on paper, and less so in the room. Scott's devotion to speaking the script seemed to have driven him over into a performance lane he couldn't drive out of... this happens. None of this is to say that he isn't talented. He is, and with more performances under his belt, he should make a fine cabaret artist. In talking about his coming out as gay or speaking about his strained relationship with his father, strained not because Scott is gay, but because he dumped the aforementioned "real world" to pursue acting it seems, Raneri opened up to the audience a touch more. His singing voice is at its best in the sweeter moments when he is allowed to relax and croon a tune, as in his nice mash-up of "Que Sera Sera" with his lovely "Mama, A Rainbow" (LOVE RAINBOWS!) or the Darrow/Cohen "Song For My Father." One wishes there were more of this gentleness throughout the program, as he more often defaults to the considerable power of his voice over his own ability to speak to us through song. Given fine support throughout by Brad Ross, Musical Director on Piano, the multi-instrument mastery of David Ashton playing 5 different woodwinds, and the wonderfully subtle Marco Panascia on bass, Raneri really does have everything he needs to make his 65ish minute program work, and with re-writes and perhaps a song shuffle it will.
Does Scott sing well? Yes, he does, especially in his softer, lighter moments. Is he nice to look at? You bet he is. Finally, THE MARVELOUS MR. MARZO is a solid concept with a talented singer at its center who needs to follow the Cabaret rule of, "Write it all down, learn it, and then throw it away and just talk." And sing of course. Bobby hates bringing the rain with his rainbows, but we do hope Scott Raneri will work with his show and bring it back to Mama's and tell us more about his Grandma and her adventures. We give this show a solid 2 ½ Rainbows and wish it could be more.